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The Lowdown on Popular Fitness Tracking Devices

The Lowdown on Popular Fitness Tracking Devices

Posted on May 20, 2014

ImageBy Stephanie Penny, PT, DPT, OCS

“There were days where I would drive to my office and home only walking 2,000 steps.  Since purchasing the Fitbit I have been more aware and accountable for my physical activity reaching 10,000 steps most days.” 

–        Lakeshore Sports Physical Therapy patient

The number of people utilizing fitness trackers is on the rise, and patients often ask for our input on which device to purchase.  Whether you are looking to count your daily steps, track your sleep habits or see how many calories you burn in a workout, a number of new devices aim to offer to provide information and accountability.  The devices often work together with smartphone apps and websites to help you view your activity, set health goals, provide motivation to get moving and share your achievements (ahem, compete) with friends.

Several of these devices feature an activity reminder or the ability to set a timed alarm to remind you to move around, which has been helpful for several patients who are recovering desk jockeys.  The following compilation of reviews will provide insight into the pros and cons on these devices, including which ones feature activity reminders.

ImageJawbone UP24

The Jawbone UP24, a newer version of the original Jawbone UP, stands out from other fitness trackers in that it provides useful data on several aspects of your daily routine, is easy to operate and allows you to scan food barcodes. Depending on your style, you might find the UP24 among the more fashionable tracker wristbands. For those who like to check their information without having to access their phone, the UP24 may not be for you, as it doesn’t have a screen. It is also not water-resistant.  Cost: $124.00

Activity Reminder?  UP24 tracks both active and idle time, so you have a complete picture of your daily movements. The Idle Alert is an optional tool available to help keep you active. Each user decides the amount of idle time allowed and when the Idle Alert is active during the day. Once the maximum idle time allowed is reached, UP24 sets off a gentle buzz with the vibration motor to remind you to get moving.

ImageFitbit One

The Fitbit One is in the mid-level price range for fitness trackers, and it tracks all the basic metrics, including sleep, steps taken, distance walked and calories burned, and also tracks the number of floors you climb. Reviewers appreciated its small size, the way it lets you connect with friends, the alarm that you can set, the inclusion of a wireless dongle to sync with your computer and a lower price than trackers such as the Garmin Vivofit. It does lack certain features found in higher-priced fitness trackers, such as the ability to track bicycling, a capability of the Basis Carbon Steel Edition. Also, the One’s sleep graph is somewhat difficult to navigate (and the device tends to count “steps” while you’re asleep). Cost: $99.95

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Activity Reminder? Although it does not remind you to be active, users are able to set a silent alarm (for example, every 30 minutes) as a reminder to move.

ImageFitbit Flex

The Fitbit Flex wristband ranked highly in comfort and design. The tracker’s soft, rubbery band is comfortable and easy on the eyes. Reviewers found it among the most inspiring and enjoyable of the fitness devices, in part because the wirelessly connected app provides a lot of data to allow you to work toward your goals and monitor your progress. Although it can be a little clunky to use, the Flex does a good job motivating you with goals for daily distance and activity time. Note that another well-known fitness tracker from the company, the Fitbit Force, was recalled in February 2014 after users experienced allergic reactions to the nickel in the device. Cost: $99.95

Activity Reminder? Although it does not remind you to be active, users are able to set a silent alarm (for example, every 30 minutes) as a reminder to move.

ImageFitbit Zip

The Fitbit Zip is an economical fitness tracker. This basic device tracks steps taken, calories burned and distances walked, but does not light up or track sleep time or stairs climbed. Though its app, the Zip provides a fair amount of motivation to get you moving. Cost: $59.95

Activity Reminder? Although it does not remind you to be active, users are able to set a silent alarm (for example, every 30 minutes) as a reminder to move.

ImageGarmin Vivofit

The Garmin Vivofit is marketed as a device that can help you turn your daily exercise into healthy, lifelong habits. In addition to logging the standard fitness-tracker data — including steps taken, calories burned, distance walked and sleep — the Vivofit assigns you a personalized fitness goal, which adjusts itself daily, as the device learns your habits and milestones. Reviewers experienced some issues synchronizing the device to a computer and phone, but the Vivofit’s one-year battery life definitely sets it apart from other fitness trackers currently on the market. Cost: $129.00

Activity Reminder?  It features a thin red bar that slowly gets longer and longer after an hour of inactivity, reminding you to get up and at least go for a quick stroll to reset it.

ImageNike FuelBand SE

The Nike FuelBand SE is an update to the original version of the FuelBand, and includes a few new features, including the ability to set reminders to move. You can also create “sessions,” which let you track the Fuel points you earn during a specific activity, like an afternoon run, as well as the duration of the activity. However, the device provides little information about how much activity you need to be healthy and does not provide sleep analysis. Cost: $149 ($169 if you prefer rose gold advanced PVD-coated stainless steel clasp, bezel and screws.)

Activity Reminder? The latest FuelBand has an alert called “win the hour,” which reminds users to move for five minutes each hour through a flashing LED light.

ImagePolar Loop

The Polar Loop is one of few fitness trackers on the market that is truly waterproof, allowing users to track activity while swimming laps. (The other is the Misfit Shine) Reviewers found the Loop to be very comfortable, easy to use and simple to sync up with the iPhone app and computer software. You cut the band so it fits your wrist.   The biggest drawback found is the button used to display the time and activity data, which is small and sits low in the band, making it difficult to push. Although the Loop measures the basics of sleep time, steps taken, activity time and levels, and calories burned, it does not give you any details on sleep quality, nor does it let you input calories eaten.  Cost: $99.95

Activity Reminders: From the information I was able to locate on this topic, the answer is no.

ImageBasis Band

The Basis Band, Carbon Steel Edition is an activity tracker that’s marketed to help busy people incorporate fitness into their everyday lives. Basis is designed like a watch, and a distinguishing feature of the device is that it includes a heart rate monitor. Users earn points for each “habit” or goal they complete, which provides motivation to continue using the device. The Carbon Steel sports a sleek look and a soft strap. However, the device is rather bulky, and has been reported to occasionally get stuck in clothes. And although you don’t need to put the device into sleep mode, Lifescience found that it made errors in determining when you are asleep.  Cost: $199.00

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Activity Reminder?  No.

ImageWithings Pulse

This lesser-known activity tracker can be worn attached to your belt or waistband, be put in a pocket, or even attached to a wristband. The Pulse excels at providing useful information. In addition to measuring distance moved and calories burned, as all devices in this category do, this one also monitors elevation changes, heart rate and sleep patterns. Using the device is relatively easy, though you may find yourself wondering what some of the data actually means. Competitors like the Garmin Vivofit and the Fitbit Flex do a better job at explaining the device’s metrics. The Pulse has a good display, so you don’t have to look at your phone just to see your data. Cost: $99.95

Activity Reminder?  No